Feedback Part Two

Feedback is the return of a portion of the output of a process or system to the input, especially when used to maintain performance or to control a system or process.

My friend Pam got an electronic activity tracker for Christmas, and like I’ve done with other good ideas Pam has, I decided to copy her and get one too. My husband got a different brand and we’ve been testing and comparing our models. Both offer feedback on how many steps we take each day, the number of stairs we climb, the number of miles we walk, and the number of hours we sleep. Mine even calculates how long it takes me to get to sleep. Using the numbers that are calculated, our trackers estimate the number of calories we’ve likely expended, based on our age, weight, and height, information you put into the system when you set it up. I’m sure motivations to use these systems vary but here are some of mine.

  • Monitoring the progress of one of my most important goals, to move more. I’ve read about the health risk of inactivity as we age and no longer do work that requires physical activity and effort. As a writer, spending long hours everyday at my computer, I don’t want my obituary to read, poor dear, she died from sitting too often and for too long.
  • A reality check – I wanted an objective measure of what I actually do, because my own perception is not always reliable. Some days a mile walk in my neighborhood feels easy, but on other days it can feel like a hike up a steep hill.
  • Rewards – The five year old inside me still likes some version of the gold stars and “good job” my teachers wrote on my school papers. Knowing that my tracker is noting the steps I climb encourages me to climb more of them. It feels like I’m getting credit for my efforts.
  • Learning something I didn’t know – When I saw the estimation of calories I used during my eight hours of sleep, (420 or so), I thought the instrument must be broken. But checking on line, turns out we do use calories while we sleep. And maybe I use more than some other people because I get up often to go to the bathroom, and I turn from side to side fairly often during the night.
  • Accuracy – Sometimes my instrument doesn’t recalibrate correctly, when it switches over from daytime to nighttime analysis. Waking in the morning with the report that I have walked 400 steps in the night (which has happened) gets me to wondering if I walked in my sleep. I know how many steps it is from my bed to the bathroom and back, so that information is not likely to be accurate. Starting off the day with 400 steps gives me a head start on the number I hope to do each day. But I don’t need help in cheating; I can do that all on my own, without any help from a technological accomplice.



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